Less drug harm being seen at summer festivals
Members of harm prevention services are saying that they are seeing a promising start to the summer festival season.
Music festivals across the country have gone ahead without the same levels of drug harm observed from last year.
So far this season, the number of drug harm events is down on last year and there has been a welcome decline in the detection of dangerous synthetic cathinones, such as eutylone, which saw a number of New Zealanders hospitalised during 2021.
National Drug Intelligence Bureau Manager Blair Macdonald is incredibly pleased with how this summer’s festival season has taken shape.
The reduction in harm can in part be attributed to the collaboration of a new network of groups working closely together to monitor festivals, looking for patterns of harm and the emergence of any new dangerous substances, he says.
This group includes drug checkers, KnowYourStuffNZ, St John NZ, the Drug Foundation, ESR and the drug early warning system, High Alert. The group works together and meets daily to discuss any concerning trends that may require further follow-up.
“The drug early warning system, High Alert, has worked closely with partner organisations. Strong relationships have been built which allows the sharing of information in real time and enables a team of analysts to understand the harm environment,” says Detective Inspector Macdonald.
“I can’t praise our partners enough for the way in which they have all made this work when most New Zealanders are enjoying time away with whanau.”
The Drug and Substance Checking Legislation Act, which was passed by Parliament in November 2021, has improved levels of service and accessibility meaning more people can have their drugs checked before they choose to use them, Detective Inspector Macdonald says. This has also contributed to the reduction in drug harm across the community.
High Alert wants to encourage anyone who may have had a negative experience with a substance to report it anonymously to High Alert. This knowledge helps to inform the network of what pills, powders or other substances are in circulation and enable warnings to be issued if required.